Visuals vs. Text: Which Content Format Is Better, and Why?
When it comes to marketing, content is key. Giving the right information to the right audience in the right form is an effective strategy to stand out from the competition.
The Internet is home to an abundance of content created daily, so businesses have to work hard to grab their target market’s attention. With so many websites competing for a slice of the readership pie, marketers need to strategize well.
Content can come in many forms. You can provide information via text, images, video, or a combination. But what is the best way to present content on your website?
Because about 65% of people are visual learners, a quick answer would be to go visual and use lots of images. It’s certainly a logical thing to do, knowing from our experience that images and infographics convey information well.
However, visual content is not the ultimate content form. Here we break down the comparative advantages and disadvantages of both visual and text content.
Our brains process visual information better
Up to 60,000 times better, it seems. It is generally easier to understand visuals than to read entire blocks of text. In fact, a whopping 90% of the information that the brain receives is non-verbal. And of course, the first written language of humans consisted of pictures. Our brain is hardwired to understand visuals better than text.
Because of this, people remember up to 80% of what they see, compared to only about 20% of what they read. So when it comes to memorability, visuals are key to your content creation.
More people view posts that have visuals
You can almost double the number of views that your webpage gets if you include visuals. Plus, visuals can help you attract the right kind of audience to your site by up to 67%.
Additionally, statistics have shown that 40% of online users will give more positive responses to visual content than text-based content.
Videos are one type of visual content that gets a lot of favorable feedback. In the United States, over 85% of people watch videos online. Digital experts even estimate that by 2019, videos will comprise 80% of global Internet traffic.
It seems that most people enjoy watching videos and react positively to compelling video content.
Visuals are better for today’s hectic lifestyles
While most people still use multiple platforms to access websites, mobile usage has continued to increase. Mobile devices are handy and allow you to access the
Internet anytime and anywhere. If you only have ten seconds to spare, visuals will help you digest information quickly.
There is a caveat to this advantage, though, which is the next thing on our list.
The text is faster to load
If speed is your concern, then the text is the way to go. Pages that have several high-quality images will take longer to load. This can decrease the number of visitors to your site.
Studies have shown that the longer it takes for a page to load, the more users abandon the site. Today, a page load time of ten seconds is considered very slow, with about 40% of visitors leaving after the tenth second. For best results, aim for a page load time between two and five seconds.
So while images are essential to a website, saturating your pages with visuals can also backfire.
Younger people prefer visuals
If your business targets the younger crowd, you will benefit more from visuals. Digital marketing experts often use elegantly designed visuals to attract this demographic.
Young people between 18 and 24 years old are particularly attracted to videos and indicate a strong preference for it. Meanwhile, older generations prefer to get their content through news articles, email, and reports, all text-based content.
The text is more accessible to all kinds of audiences
Users who are visually impaired need other tools to navigate websites. Some need to adjust the font size so they can read better. Text content can be easily enlarged for the benefit of these users, but you can’t resize graphics.
Others often use devices like screen readers to help them navigate. These text-to-speech screen readers work by translating what is on the screen to audio. If your website only contains visuals, then screen readers will not be able to ‘read’ it. Make your images more accessible by providing alt-text for each visual element.
People share visuals more often than text
Viral images and videos go viral partly because people tend to share more visuals than text. The average person only reads about 20% of the text on a webpage or post. If the text is not compelling or interesting enough, the person simply leaves the page.
If your goal is to go viral, it’s best to have visuals accompanying a short text. If you are creating content for your social media sites, then visuals will be your best bet. Getting a post to go viral can boost your brand awareness. Not only that, but you can increase your conversion rate as well.
Before creating an infographic or image that you want to go viral, plan carefully. You’ll want to maximize the attention that you expect the post to receive. Make sure your visuals contain your logo and website or social media information.
When a post goes viral, it would be hard to insist that each and every person who shares it must link back to you. By putting your brand on the visuals themselves, your information is automatically shared along with the post.
Search engines index text, not visuals
Search engine optimization uses keywords to determine what results to show. If your website is purely visual, then you lose the chance to optimize your content for search engines.
If you present most of your information in graphics form, search engines will have no way of indexing your website. So when people search for a particular keyword, your website might not be included even if it has the word embedded in an image.
To work around this, be sure to include text descriptions on your website, taking note of important keywords. Provide alt-texts for all your images so search engines will have something to index.
Visuals help increase online customer engagement and sales
For many businesses, it’s not enough just to get traffic to their websites. The key is to get targeted audiences to visit the sites. Once you have your target audience’s attention, visual elements can increase your online engagement by up to 37%.
Businesses who rely on customer loyalty will surely benefit from this increased engagement. It builds customer relationships, which will affect revenue and brand awareness down the line.
As a plus, product videos also help generate revenue. Studies have shown that website visitors spend more time on websites that have video elements. More importantly, online shoppers are 85% more likely to act on a product offer after watching an explainer video.
In summary, visuals and text must work together
In many aspects, visuals do trump text. However, images and videos still have their limitations. Visuals allow people to remember more details. Words can provide context for the visuals.
In the end, you want your website to include images and videos that explain your business effectively. But you’ll also want to accompany them with text that explains the visuals further.
Use good quality visuals to break up long paragraphs of text, and vice versa. Several images on a single page might be too distracting for a reader, so adding some text can help create clear sections.
You also need to consider your target demographic and your product. Younger people tend to favor visuals and respond better to them. Older people prefer reading text descriptions. Additionally, the text is easier for people who use assistive devices such as screen readers.
Your business and products likewise affect your marketing content. Products that are highly specialized and technical need more descriptions. Of course, products that appeal to the visual senses need more images, such as in the fashion and beauty industry. Finally, products that need simple how-to instructions will benefit from videos.
In short, visual content grabs the attention of your target audience and keeps them engaged. The text provides additional information and makes your website more accessible and portable. A good branding and marketing strategy will make use of both content types in effective ways.
In creating content for your website, always work from the perspective of the visitors. This will help you strike a good balance between visuals and text, optimizing your website for all audiences across different platforms.